Officers of the Nigeria Army and the Police have continued to evade summons to attend a coroner’s inquest into the death of three police officers allegedly shot by soldiers in 2011, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
Samuel Salihu, Divisional Police Officer of Ibereko police station, Badagry; Samson Okedusi, Divisional Crime Officer; and Taofeek Afolabi, Operations Officer; were fatally shot on May 24, 2011, allegedly by army officers from the 424 Army Battalion in Badagry who were on a reprisal mission after their colleague was shot by police officers.
Last year, a coroner’s inquest initiated by Femi Falana tried to unravel the circumstances surrounding the death of the police officers.
But repeated failure of army and police witnesses to appear before the coroner continued to stall the inquest.
On August 15, Ipaye Nwachukwu, the coroner, issued a witness summons to both army and police officers to appear at the inquest.
Those billed to appear before the coroner include Ralph Isa, a Brigadier-General and the Commanding Officer, Nigerian Army Legal Department, Bonny Camp; Kayode Ogunsanya, a Lieutenant-Colonel and the Public Relations Officer, Nigerian Army, Bonny Camp; and the Commanding Officer, RECCE, Nigerian Army Cantonment, Iberepo, Badagry.
Others are Suleiman Fakhai, AIG, Police Force, Zone 2; the Legal Department, Operation MESA, Lagos Command; the Divisional Police Officer, Badagry Police Station; and the Legal Department, Rapid Respond Squad, Lagos Command.
In a letter by Falana and Falana Chambers addressed to the Officer in Charge of the Legal Department of the Nigerian Army, Bonny Camp; the army were reminded of their failure to produce their witnesses at the inquest.
“We have been informed by the Sheriff of the Court that your department refused service of the said processes thereby frustrating all attempts to get your officers to give their testimony,” read the letter dated December 13, 2012.
Adeyemi Okunade of Falana and Falana Chambers said that repeated efforts to serve the notices to the army’s Legal Department have been unsuccessful.
“They said that all summoned officers should be served directly,” said Mr. Okunade.
“So we decided to post the notice to them via a courier,” he added.
On their own part, the police had “promised’ that they would appearon January 16, the next adjourned date of the inquest, Mr. Okunade added.
‘Unknown army officers’
While on his deathbed, Mr. Afolabi had narrated the incidents that led to the shooting of him and his colleagues by the ‘unknown army officers.’
According to Mr. Afolabi, they were on a “peace mission” to the army barracks after some police officers allegedly shot and killed an army officer.
“We were driving down to the barracks when we saw soldiers burning a police escort car. At this point, he (the DPO) sensed that we were unsafe and decided to turn back. In the process, our vehicle ran into a ditch and the DPO opened the door and took to his heels,” media reports had quoted Mr. Afolabi, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, as saying.
“I also took to my heels but a bullet hit me. When I was on the ground, I saw the soldiers stabbing the DPO. They were saying they should torture him to death. He was stabbed severally before he died,” Mr. Afolabi had said.
Few days after the incident, the army stated that a preliminary investigation it jointly conducted with the police revealed that no army officer was involved in the incident.
When contacted on why the Army was allowing its officers boycott the coroner, the spokesperson for the Nigerian Army, Bola Koleosho, claimed he was not aware of the coroner’s summons.
The spokesperson for the Nigerian police, Frank Mba, did not return calls or respond to text messages sent to him.
In a couple of weeks, it will be clear whether the coroner would take any action against the soldiers and the cops for boycotting the court.